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What Exactly is Schizophrenia?

Updated on April 14, 2015

A Complex Disorder: Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia affects about one percent of the population, or two million people in the United States alone, and can affect children as young as six years of age. It affects men more often than women. This mental disorder is characterized by problems with a person's thoughts, behaviors, and social abilities and is quite debilitating, although it ranges in severity from person to person. Although it is not passed down directly from generation to generation, genetic factors are known to contribute to a vulnerability to the disorder and environmental factors do come into play as well. Basically, it is a very complex disorder that isn't completely understood, even by the medical community. There is no known cure for schizophrenia, but many people find relief with certain medications and counseling.

The term "schizophrenia" has been used since 1911, but the symptoms of the disorder have been described throughout history, including in ancient Egyptian, Hindu, Chinese, Greek, and Roman writings.This mental disorder is largely misunderstood by the public, so I will attempt to explain it and perhaps demystify it here on this page.

Photo Credit: roland, via Creative Commons

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Symptoms that people experience differ from person to person, but may include some of the following:

- withdrawal, disinterest, not speaking

- insomnia

- trouble with concentration

- irritability

- reduced emotion

- bizarre behaviors

- delusions (beliefs that have no basis in reality)

- hallucinations (hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling, or smelling things that aren't present in reality)

- catatonia (in a daze or stupor)

- disorganized speech and/or behavior

- abnormal movements or no movement

Symptoms of acute schizophrenia involve psychosis, or being out of touch with reality. For example, a person who is psychotic may hear voices or sounds that are not real, see things that are not present, or feel imaginary bugs crawling on his or her skin.

Video That Does a Great Job of Explaining Schizophrenia

There Are 5 Types of Schizophrenia

Paranoid - The patient is preoccupied with one or more delusions or hallucinations but does not fit into the "disorganized" category of schizophrenia.

Disorganized - The patient has disorganized behavior and speech and/or flat or inappropriate affect, but does not fit into the "catatonic" category.

Catatonic - The patients exhibits one of more of these symptoms: difficulty moving, resistance to moving, excessive movement, abnormal movements, repeats what other say or do.

Undifferentiated - The patient is having or has had episodes of two or more of the following but does not fit into another category: delusions, hallucinations, catatonic behavior, disorganized speech and/or behavior.

Residual - This is a less severe form of schizophrenia. The patient does not experience delusions or paranoia, but does exhibit some negative symptoms, such as withdrawal or disinterest.

Mary Todd Lincoln - image from Wikimedia Commons
Mary Todd Lincoln - image from Wikimedia Commons

Famous Individuals That Have or Had Schizophrenia

(Just a few of many)

John Nash - American mathematician. The movie "A Beautiful Mind" was based on him.

Syd Barrett - Guitarist for Pink Floyd.

Lionel Aldridge - Professional American football player who played for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s.

Peter Green - Guitarist for Fleetwood Mac.

Mary Todd Lincoln - Wife of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

Photo Credit: Louise Docker, via Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Louise Docker, via Creative Commons

Spread LOVE, Truth, and Acceptance

I do not suffer with schizophrenia, but I do have bipolar disorder and understand a thing or two about stigma and myths surrounding the topic of mental disorders. It is important to understand that many ideas we have about people with schizophrenia are false. Rather, they are merely myths passed from person to person. One of these myths is that people with schizophrenia are dangerous and out-of-control. When treated, a person who has schizophrenia is no more dangerous than your average Joe Shmoe.

If you know someone who has schizophrenia or if you suffer from it yourself, be an advocate! Fight for the person's rights and quality treatment. Surround the person with love, respect, and acceptance. Educate yourself about schizophrenia and learn how and when to seek appropriate treatment. Know the symptoms of an oncoming psychotic episode and have a plan of action. Realize that sometimes things will get out of your hands, so have a plan for when you will call the doctor, when to seek emergency assistance, and so forth.

Thank you for visiting!

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    • merfzel profile image

      merfzel 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so happy that your daughter is feeling better and is able to handle her symptoms more effectively as it can be very tough. Myself and members of my family have had mental health issues and it can be very frustrating and confusing at times.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      My daughter had her first episode of schizophrenia in her early 20's. She became delusional to the point that she had to be hospitalized. She was hallucinating, hearing voices, and talking as though she was living in heaven. It was scary. Thankfully, we were able to find medications that brought her back to reality in just a few short weeks. Her second episode was much more pronounced, to the point that she was hyperactive and even hyper sexual. This time, we had to move to different medications, and she was in the state hospital for several months. Since then, we have been able to bring her home and she has lived much more normally. She is able to recognize the symptoms when they come on and deal with them successfully. Because she also became manic during her delusions, she was given the diagnosis of schizzo-affective disorder.

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 4 years ago

      Good info! I believed I met a person with schizophrenia. The most important thing is you know how to deal with people who have this disorder. Sundae ;-)

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      Schizophrenia is a very sad illness and is indeed still very misunderstood.